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Tomas Satoransky is ready to embrace his positional versatility like never before

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USA Today

Tomas Satoransky is ready to embrace his positional versatility like never before

As he enters the third season of his NBA career, two things stand out to Tomas Satoransky in his approach to this particular campaign that may differ from years past. 

One is that he has learned by now he is not entitled to or assured of anything when it comes to his role in the Wizards' rotation. The other is that he is ready to fully embrace playing positions other than point guard, a directive the coaches and front office have given him over the past year.

The first lesson was instilled the hard way, through having an inconsistent role the past two seasons. In 2017-18 alone, he went from being the third point guard, to the second point guard, to the replacement starter for John Wall, to watching the team sign multiple point guards as free agents before the playoffs; in which he was essentially replaced by Ty Lawson, who had last played in China.

All of that happened within one season, despite the fact that Satoransky had thrived at times in each spot, including as a starter.

The Wizards' point of view

The Wizards clearly wanted to see more from him last season and he took that to heart.

"That's what these two years have taught me, never be sure of your situation or position," Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. "On the other hand, I feel very confident now. I also feel confident knowing how things go and how I can be patient when I'm not playing. I still have to work hard, which I do every time. But I feel confident knowing everything and there is a big difference coming into something where you have no idea what's going to happen."

The Wizards explained their decisions to bring in other point guards, a process which also included trading for Tim Frazier last summer and signing Ramon Sessons in March, as not an indication of Satoransky's shortcomings. Instead, they wanted him to develop at other positions and use his athletic 6-foot-7 frame in other ways.

Head coach Scott Brooks even mentioned this after Wednesday's training camp practice.

"Tomas, he is very versatile. He can play a lot of different positions on both ends of the court. We have to use that," Brooks said.

Satoransky's personal versatility

Satoransky has long insisted he is more natural at point guard, where he grew up playing and where he made a name for himself overseas before joining the NBA. The Wizards hoped he would occasionally play shooting guard and small forward, but despite improving his off-ball skills like spot-up three-point shooting, Satoransky never fully got a grasp at either position last season.

This year, Satoransky seems not only more prepared to play at those positions, but perhaps more willing. Not that he wasn't eager to play off the ball, it's that now he seems a bit more thrilled about it.

"With the depth and everything, I'm not trying to focus on one specific position. I'm trying to focus on how I can help other players trying to play good together. With the second group, we can be very, very versatile there. I'm looking forward to it," Satoransky said. 

"I like to play with Jeff [Green] already. I can see that. He's very smart and great at pick-and-rolls and slipping [off of them]. Austin [Rivers], I haven't practiced with him yet, but I know what he can bring to the team. I'm actually excited about that, playing with versatile teammates and being able to play different styles."

The good news

If Satoransky can find a way to succeed with Rivers in particular, that will be great for the Wizards and also Satoransky's future. As the star player turns 27 in October, he is entering a contract year and the biggest threat to his playing time at backup point guard is probably Rivers. If the Wizards decide to tighten their rotation and rely more heavily on Wall and Bradley Beal, Rivers could cut into Satoransky's role, as he can also play point.

The good news is that the Wizards do not have another primary backup point guard on the roster. At this point last year, they had both Satoransky and Frazier. Right now, Satoransky is slotted to be the No. 2 guy.

It's a good situation for him on paper, but Satoransky doesn't count anything as guaranteed.

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Wizards show they can punch back against the NBA's elite in loss to Clippers

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards show they can punch back against the NBA's elite in loss to Clippers

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 135-119 on Sunday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said before Sunday's game he was interested to see how his team would respond against the Clippers, just one week after they were pummeled by 25 points in a game that L.A. dropped 150 in total. Though the Wizards didn't get the win, they fared a lot better the second time around.

Maybe it wasn't enough for a moral victory, which players and coaches openly detest. But it was at the least an indication the Wizards can punch back and give one of the best teams in the NBA a legitimate fight.

The loss, though, was the Wizards' fifth in their last six games. They are 7-15 on the year.

2. Too much time has passed for Ian Mahinmi to justify his contract and fans will never let it down, and justifiably so. But through two games this season, it's clear that he can help this team, at least in the short-term with Thomas Bryant out.

That's because Mahinmi plays defense and the Wizards as a team do not. Well, they play defense, they just aren't very good at it.

Mahinmi is probably at-worst one of the Wizards two or three best defenders. Maybe Isaac Bonga is better than him. Bradley Beal, if that was his sole focus, could be better as well. But Mahinmi is all about defense and his commitment stands out on this year's Wizards, who are mostly comprised of offensive-minded players.

Mahinmi did a solid job on Joel Embiid in the Wizards' win over the Sixers last week and on Sunday had some standout moments, including a pair of blocks in the first half, one on Montrezl Harrell and another on Moe Harkless. The Harkless one saw Mahinmi close from the other side of the rim, the type of play no one else on the team could probably make.

Mahinmi had nine points and six rebounds in 18 minutes on 4-for-4 shooting from the field.

3. In case you haven't heard yet, Davis Bertans can shoot. The Latvian Laser lit it up again with 25 points in 28 minutes, including six threes.

What stood out the most about Bertans in this game, though, was his match-ups. He spent a good amount of time guarding Kawhi Leonard and, in the second half, Leonard guarded him on the other end.

Perhaps Brooks thought Bertans' size would give Leonard problems, but it didn't work. Leonard still got 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Bertans wasn't an ideal choice to guard Leonard, but then again no one really is. Not just on the Wizards, like, no one in the league can stop him consistently.

As for the flip-side of the Bertans-Leonard dual, Leonard wasn't on him all night. He got switched to guard him in the second quarter after Bertans' hot start. 

4. Speaking of defensive assignments, Beal (20 points, five assists) spent much of his night on Moe Harkless and not Leonard or Paul George (27 points, six assists, six rebounds). Harkless is a solid player, but because of his defense. He is the least threatening player in the Clippers' starting lineup on the offensive end.

It was probably more about saving Beal's energy than anything. He was playing his third game in four nights and is such an important part of the Wizards' offense, that it makes sense to focus on that end of the floor.

But given Beal's potential as a two-way player, and how often Brooks praises him for that, it seemed like this was a good opportunity to put that on display. Maybe if it were the playoffs, things would be different and he would be on Leonard or George.

5. Troy Brown Jr. has been inconsistent this season, one night looking the part as a first round pick and other nights looking lost and without confidence. But Sunday was his best game of the season so far.

Brown had it going early off the bench and was making plays on both ends of the floor. He was disruptive with deflections on defense and could not miss on offense.

Brown ended up with a season-high 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. He also added five rebounds and four assists. He even shot 2-for-4 from three.

On nights like Sunday, when Brown has it going and knows it, it's easy to see how different he plays when his confidence builds. He is more assertive attacking the rim and plays defense with energy and aggression.

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Wizards fall victim to 61 combined points from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George

Wizards fall victim to 61 combined points from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George

The Wizards cut into multiple big leads built by the Clippers Sunday, but nothing was stopping LA from pulling away in this one. 

Troy Brown, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans each scored over 20 points and Rui Hachimura added 17 of his own while Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined to score 61 points. 

It was a winnable game for Washington, they just couldn't get it done against one of the best teams in the NBA. 

Here are some of their best moments in the 135-119 loss. 

Great ball movement leads to a Wagner three

With Thomas Bryant out, Moe Wagner has added an interesting new flavor to the starting lineup. He's not the prolific shooter Davis Bertans is, but his ability to stretch the floor has opened things up nicely for players like Bradley Beal and Rui Hachimura.

Early in the game against the Clippers, Washington took advantage of the extra space with their dribble-drive game. It was a promising start against one of the best teams in the league. 

Wagner will continue to start at the five with Bryant out for at least the next two weeks. If he can knock down threes with regularity off of ball movement like the play above or off pick and pops with Beal, it'll make things much easier on the Wizards' slashers. 

Mahinmi's block party

In his second game all year, Ian Mahinmi lifted the Wizards' second unit with the kind of interior defense this team has lacked all season long. 

Mahinmi finished with nine points, six rebounds and three blocks on the game and it was clear the Wizards' defense was better with him in the game. 

Washington has been the NBA's worst paint defense all year, so perhaps Mahinmi's return could spark some progression in that department. 

Troy Brown's save energizes Wizards

The Clippers were coming off a blowout loss to the Bucks in this game, so they came out firing after only leading the Wizards by one at halftime.

LA built a 16-point lead and seemed to be well on their way to an easy win, but then Troy Brown kickstarted a comeback. 

Brown saved the ball from going out of bounds, somehow found Chris Chiozza who then dished it to Mahinmi for an and-one finish.

It helped the Wizards flip momentum and keep the game close all the way to the final buzzer. 

The Wizards' first-round pick from a year ago had struggled as a starter and had recently been relegated to the bench, but Brown has looked much better with the reserves. 

He gets to play with the ball in his hands more and that's really seemed to positively impact his activity on defense. It also helps to be running an offense with Davis Bertans giving teams nightmares with his three-point shooting. 

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